Thursday, October 18, 2007
Parliament authorizes the government to order the military to carry out an incursion into Iraq to hunt down the PKK. 'It is state policy,' says Deputy PM Çiçek adding that Turkey is firm on protecting its citizens
ANKARA TDN Parliament Bureau
Parliament approved a motion yesterday authorizing the government to order the military to conduct a cross-border operation into northern Iraq to crack down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists.
The motion allows the Turkish Armed Forces to conduct cross-border operations in northern Iraq and surrounding areas for a one-year period. But the military still needs to receive separate instructions from the government that sets the timing, scale and the target of an operation. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier said that approval of the motion does not necessarily mean an imminent military operation is in the cards.
After the approval of the motion, the cabinet convened under the leadership of Erdoğan to discuss recent developments. Meanwhile officials from the Foreign Ministry briefed members of the diplomatic missions here yesterday, the Anatolia news agency reported. Earlier Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt who is in Rome on a visit, declined to comment on the motion saying that it would be wrong for him to talk about it before its approval. "Of course we aware of the content. We were active during the wording of the motion," he said.
Observers in Ankara say that an operation is not likely to be conducted before late November. Turkey will host an international summit on Iraq with the participation of the United States, G-8 countries and Iraq's neighbors early in November. Erdoğan plans to visit the President of the United States George W. Bush in Washington mid November.
Parliament held a special open session to discuss whether a cross-border operation in northern Iraq is necessary. The majority of deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Democratic Left Party (DSP) voted in favor of the motion while parliamentarians from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) opposed the passage of the motion. There were 507 votes cast in favor of the motion and 19 against.
Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek said Turkey has the authority to make use of its right stemming from international law against the terrorist attacks of the PKK, which enjoys safe haven in northern Iraq. “What we seek is not an internal balance of our party but of our state's and people's. It is a very complicated and multilateral issue. We don't have the luxury to commit mistakes,” he said.
He criticized the DTP, without naming it for not condemning the terrorist attacks and added, “first we have to agree on the definitions. If some define what we call terrorist as freedom fighter, then we have a problem. There is no magic way to deal with terrorism. Military option is one of the ways.”
DTP: Motion can cause destruction
The DTP's parliamentary group leader, Selahattin Demirtaş, said, “an operation will make Turkey a belligerent power. Even though this operation will be successful, how is it going to stop the problem from becoming more destructive? Our face is turned to Ankara and peace. Our wish is that there will be no need for the use of this motion,” while addressing Parliament on behalf of his party and criticized the government for presenting the motion.
CHP: Barzani should make a choice
The CHP's Istanbul deputy, retired ambassador Şükrü Elekdağ said they supported the motion and slammed both the PKK and Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. “The target of the motion should not only be the PKK but the ones who protect them,” Elekdağ said, referring to the Barzani administration. “If we cannot do so, the operation will not be useful. We have to make clear to Barzani and Iraq that they have to make a choice: Turkey or the PKK?
MHP: Iraqi actions ‘hostile act'
Deniz Bölükbaşı, the Ankara deputy of the MHP, said that Iraq allowing the use of its territory to terrorist groups is a “hostile act” according to international law, and added that the U.S. has been ignoring this situation. Criticizing the government for not being sensitive in the fight against terrorism and for rejecting calls by the military for authorization to launch a cross-border operation four months ago, Bölükbaşı said: “What is very important is the implementation of the motion. Otherwise it will be a virtual motion.”